The Lenten Promise
Having begun the Lenten season with the smearing of ashes on our foreheads, we begin a journey that will lead through Good Friday to Easter. We see Lent, often, as a season of self-denial, penitence, introspection, and even self-flagellation (metaphorically -- hopefully). It is an ascetic season for many -- though I've never taken the ascetic route myself. That should be self-evident.
So what does Lent speak to us about? Turning again to Sr. Joan Chittister and her book The Liturgical Year, I find great hopefulness in these words:
Clearly, the voice of Lent is not a dour one. It is a call to remember who we are and where we have come from and why. The voice of Lent is the cry to become new again, to live on newly no matter what our life has been like until now and to live fully. It is even more than that. It is the promise of mercy, the guarantee of new life. It is the resin that keeps our souls melded to the Spirit within us despite the pull of chaos and waste and superficialities on our spiritual moorings. Lent is our salvation from the depths of nothingness. It is our guide to the more of life.(Chittister, The Liturgical Year, Thomas Nelson, 2009, pp. 121-122).
The point of Lent is not to beat the demons into submission, but to let the Spirit refine our spirits so we might let go of the nothingness and embrace the fullness of life in the presence of God -- and God's creation.